"GLPA, We Have a Problem--Light Pollution."

Workshop at the 40th Annual Conference of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
21 October 2005

DSC07760.JPG (43403 bytes) The Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) addressed light pollution at its 40th Annual Conference with a workshop dedicated to sharing techniques for preserving the night sky.  Workshop attendees addressed lighting issues from the perspectives of varied interest groups and stakeholders.  Many of the workshop activities can be used by other dark sky advocates as they, too, spread the message.

DSC07756.JPG (46325 bytes)The workshop suggested that the best arguments for getting municipalities to implement lighting ordinances relate to motorist/pedestrian safety, prevention of light trespass, and energy savings.  One teacher who requires her students to do a project on lighting issues noted that her students consistently embrace the arguments that support the well-being of animal life.  Astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts, while benefactors of dark skies, are the primary bell-ringers calling attention to the issues.  They have a tradition of observing the sky, quantifying the brightness of objects within the starfield, and monitoring the sky's viewing conditions; hence, the sky-watching community is positioned to be a steward of the night..

DSC04817.JPG (17960 bytes)Co-host Mitch Luman introduced lighting issues by illustrating the win-win nature of dark sky advocacy.  Photographs of blatant light pollution emphasized where gains could be readily realized.  Luman also stressed that proper lighting should be full-fledged, not a series of good fixtures negated with a light-bombing bad fixture.  

During Luman's talk, a bright, unshielded light was deliberately left on, and he spoke as if it were not.  Eventually someone in the audience spoke up about the light's interfering with the view of the projected video image.  Would this be better, he asked, as he fully shielded the light?  Yes, the audience acknowledged.  Then Luman dimmed the light further.  Would this be better, he asked again?  Yes, and when turned off the light was best.  Luman then continued with his talk, having made the point that shielding a light is good, dimming (or timing) a shielded light is better, and turning off a light is best.  

mag-pie04389.jpg (18642 bytes) Workshop co-host Chuck Bueter conducted two simple demonstrations that dramatically illustrate how full shielding over a light reduces glare, reduces sky-glow, and increases the effective lighting of the object on the ground.  See for activity descriptions and images. skyline-04374.jpg (23632 bytes)

The workshop introduced participants to a series of light pollution resources that are particularly valuable to planetariums and museums.  The complete handout with links to resources includes IDA-affiliate contacts for GLPA states and other items addressed in the workshop, including:.

A role-playing exercise ....  

Mitch Luman gave participants Persona Cards (Microsoft Publisher file) that profiled a lighting issues stakeholder.  The contrived personalities were a real estate developer, a planetarian, a pedestrian, a city council member, a motorist, a car dealer, an astronomer, a sea turtle, a billboard owner, an architect, a camper, a crime victim, an amateur astronomer, a local utility, a homeowner, and a person with an obnoxious outdoor light.  Luman had color-coded the personas by common features.  On each Persona Card were listed "Things Important to You."  In pairs called out by Luman, two participants would role-play a conversation about lighting issues.  Luman and other audience members critiqued or challenged some aspects of the discussion, which made attendees aware of how the respective arguments would be perceived.  The dialogue also illustrated some shortcomings and inaccuracies casually made by dark sky advocates.  

DSC07759.JPG (27474 bytes) Gary Sampson (on floor) gamely takes on the persona of a turtle in a role-playing exercise as Gary Tomlinson looks on.
DSC07761.JPG (41961 bytes) Francine Jackson (right) portrays a crime victim for whom lighting issues are important.  Meanwhile, Gordon pressed his case for the benefit of planetarians. 

 council05415.jpg (22854 bytes)Some discussion discussed legislation efforts by some workshop attendees.  Samples of state statutes and local ordinances are at  

Final handouts included:

How To Talk To Your Neighbor 
Lighting Tips for Homeowners 
How Dark Are Your Skies/Limiting Magnitude?
Sky Quality Meter

DSC07769.JPG (41649 bytes)   Dark-sky advocates Mitch Luman, Bill Huston, and George Fleenor discuss initiatives to preserve the sky.

The workshop concluded with a demonstration of the Sky Quality Meter (SQM) from Unihedron.  The handheld device measures the sky brightness on a logarithmic scale.  Through the generosity of Unihedron, an SQM was given away as a door prize.

DSC07765.JPG (50890 bytes) Workshop co-host Mitch Luman presents an SQM, courtesy of Unihedron, to Bill Huston of Indiana.

DSC07766.JPG (26069 bytes) Bill Huston displays his Sky Quality Meter (SQM), which allows him to quantify sky brightness.

Copyright 2009 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.